by Lydia Howell
George W. Bush called Cuba leader Fidel Castro stepping down due to his health, “a step towards democracy for the Cuba people”. None of the talking heads who’ve commented with almost gleeful anticipation that the Cuban Revolution is might now be reversed, ever mentions what inspiredthat revolution in the first place. For 50 year s, the official policy has been an American assault against the socialist island nation that's had the audacity to determine their own form of government—whether the Super Power 90 miles away approves or not. Even the end of the Cold War
and the disintegration of the communist Soviet Union 15 years ago didn't change US policy towards Cuba.
A sketch of the history is in order. With Manifest Destiny policy of the 19th century, the United States declared all of Latin America and the Caribbean to be the America's “back yard”. As such, the US government claimed the right to decide what kinds of governments those countries have, to enforce US corporations right to plunder the resources and exploit the labor of those countries—with military force (including invasions of countries from Haiti to Nicaragua to Cuba at the turn of
the 20th century) or CIA covert actions, including assassination of
leaders who resist US domination. (See William Blum's book “Killing Hope”, for a post-WWII history of these policies).
The US-backed Cuban dictator Batista ruled with an iron fist from the 1930s until his overthrow by the Cuban revolution in 1959. Under Batista's rule a small elite got very rich for opening up the island to US sugar corporations and the Mafia's gambling/prostitution resorts. The majority of Cubans were illiterate, had no health care, no labor rights and lived in grinding poverty. “Democracy” was a sham under the US ally
Batista and the United States never expressed the slightest interest in (to quote the manta of recent days) “the Cuban people's human rights, freedom and democracy” while Batista ruled. In fact, they called Batista
“a friend of the United States”--as American politicians have called so many dictators who have caused their own people so much suffering, aided and abetted by the U.S. government.
improving their lives by any objective measure (elaborated more fully below). Almost immediately, the US worked to overthrow the Castro government in order to reinstate another corporate-friendly
government—invading the country in 1961 failed Bay of Pigs incident—and many acts of terrorism since.
Some will point to the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, when the USSR tried to put nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Perhaps, most Americans are not aware that there are over 750 US military in almost every country in the world. Even now, there's plans to put US nuclear weapons in former Soviet countries and permanent military bases in Iraq, as part of the U.S. occupation. Isn't iunderstandable that in 1961, Cuba—a island nation of less than 15 million people-- would have turned to its most powerful ally for
protection from a super-power that aimed to overthrow it (and had
already invaded once)? Isn't it “ancient history” to use that
long-resolved conflict for a policy that's continued 47 years? Who has Cuba invaded and occupied?
Certainly, there are problems in Cuba—much of it due to the embargo that's tried to economically strangle the country and banning necessities from auto parts to medical supplies. Some of Cuba;s challenges are not so different from ones in our own country: the necessity of addressing prejudice towards Afro-Cubans and gay people.
Cubans have engaged in real “national conversations” about these issues in a way that Americans still struggle with.
Bush limited Cuban-Americans being able to visit their relatives in
Cuba to once every three years and severely shrunk how much money they could send back to their family. This hurts families in a fundamentally anti-humanitarian way.
The rest of us are banned from traveling to Cuba without a hard-to-get permit--a crime that can get you up to 5 years in prison and serious fines The International Declaration of Human Rights says that “freedom to travel” is a basic human right. The US is a signatory to the Declaration. Why doesn't “freedom” include the freedom to travel to Cuba?
Ordinary Americans risk prison, fines and having their passports
revoked—activists, students, religious people, artists—defy the travel ban every year, to see Cuba for themselves and to donate medicine and educational supplies. For filming part of his last documentary “Sicko” in Cuba, Micheal Moore was threatened with having his film confiscated and with possible fines and jail. Pastors for Peace leads a caravan to Cuba every summer and you can get more information at: